Inmate Jensen Medina Cardona was allegedly forced by another inmate —in exchange for protection— to apply for the benefits of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
Medina, who is in the middle of a judicial process, accused of murder in the first degree and of infractions to the Arms Law for the death of Arellys Mercado, was not the only inmate who was allegedly extorted in the Bayamón prison.
Police sources maintain that the inmate offering protection obtained a substantial sum from various inmates and with that money – which was given to relatives – he bought a bus for his wife valued at more than $ 50,000.
Until yesterday the Police had not received the referral of the Medina case, whose file is in the hands of the Labor Department.
The Acting Secretary of the Department of Justice, Inés Carrau Martínez, said in an interview with THE SPOKESMAN that regarding the people who have defrauded the PUA “I cannot assure that there are prisoners, I do not have the information. Those people who are alleged to be confined have to find out when they were confined. It would be irresponsible to comment ”.
For its part, the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DCR) —which has Medina in its custody— issued a statement in response to the request for information and stated that “because the request refers to matters under the jurisdiction of other government agencies, it is not the responsibility of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to comment on this, since they may be related to criminal investigations that may or may not be ongoing ”.
Under magnifying glass thousands of people
Monday THE SPOKESMAN exclusively published that around 10,000 government employees also requested the benefit from federal funds, which will be investigated. Added to this case is that of minors who illegally requested the benefit for the unemployed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that of people in general who have used false documents to receive the money.
According to the sources consulted, Justice claims that the cases of thousands of public employees who improperly requested the PUA be assigned to the Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), which operates with a handful of agents that are estimated to be less than 20.
This media yesterday asked Pedro Janer, secretary of the Department of Public Security (DSP), under which the NIE operates, a reaction, but later in the afternoon he had not answered the request.
Meanwhile, Carrau Martínez admitted that “at some point there will be an avalanche of cases. We have prosecutors in all jurisdictions, they are prosecutors exclusively to handle these cases. “
The official defended that the NIE agents are in charge of the investigations of the around 10,000 public employees who are presumed to defraud the PUA. She said that the NIE – an agency that belonged to Justice until the DSP was created – has about 50 agents. But, DSP sources point out that there are not 15 active agents in the NIE to carry out the investigative phase.
“There are a huge number of cases of public employees who have applied and the NIE is the branch that investigates the officials. Approximately 50 agents in the cases of public employees, of 10,000 or more cases, ”said Carrau Martínez, noting that the lists of possible beneficiaries must be refined since some people are not currently public employees.
He argued that in the case of Justice workers, there are people who were no longer employed when the pandemic began, but the list was refined.
“What happens is that if he is a public employee, he has not stopped collecting his salary, it is the main source of his income,” replied Carrau Martínez when asked about those officials who have businesses and claimed the help when they were forced to close them for cause of the pandemic.
“We must purge the lists of those who are suspected of committing fraud,” he reiterated and pointed out that the Police will investigate all other cases that are not of public employees.
The case of minors
On the other hand, the Secretary of Justice argued that in the cases of minors who allegedly illegally requested PUA benefits, not all have been referred by Labor to the agency he directs and the juvenile attorneys are working on the files they have been arriving.
When asked about the case of Ignacio Marchán Sosa, son of television reporter Ivette Sosa, who allegedly deposited a check for $ 6,726 from the PUA in a bank account, Carrau Martínez replied that “this case is being worked on and the investigation for the corresponding procedure ”.
Marchán Sosa is one of around 40 students from Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola who allegedly made claims to the PUA with false information and obtained the benefits.
Yesterday, the Police had not received the complaints about the other students who allegedly committed fraud at the PUA.
The investigation costs up
On Sunday the Secretary of Labor, Carlos Rivera Santiago, confirmed to THE SPOKESMAN that last Friday a meeting was held in which the Acting Secretary of Justice, the Chief Prosecutor Arlene Gardón Rivera, several Police officers – such as Colonel Rafael Rosa Córdova – and Economic Crimes prosecutors participated, among others. The attention of the federal authorities to this matter has also been discussed.
“Basically we are discussing the work logistics of different referrals to investigate the allegations of fraud,” Rivera Santiago said at the time, confirming that there are an estimated 10,000 public employees who allegedly committed fraud to the PUA. Other sources point to the figure reaching 15,000.
After Rivera Santiago’s expressions, it was learned that in the case of the Police, there are a substantial number of officers, sergeants and agents who, in addition to being public employees, operate businesses and apply for PUA benefits, receiving substantial sums as if they were unemployed.